Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester Part 3

The previous Times and Seasons editorial provided a lengthy extract from Stephens and Catherwood's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. The author of that editorial believed that the structures found in Palenque provided incontrovertible evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. In the same volume and issue of the Church-owned newspaper as the last editorial, this conclusion is continued in three additional paragraphs. I'm not primarily concerned with authorship of the editorials as of yet, so much as I'm concerned as to what the editorials actually assert regarding Book of Mormon geography, and specifically whether any limitations are imposed upon that geography. The previous two editorials allowed for the region from Central America up to Ohio to be considered Book of Mormon lands, with the last editorial providing emphasis upon the area of Palenque as being uniquely in support of Book of Mormon events (specifically citing 2 Nephi 5 as a corroborating text). The editorial below is further assessed for clarification and elaboration upon these previous assertions.

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester Part 2

In the previous post I discussed the first editorial in the Times and Seasons wherein Stephens and Catherwood's book was referenced as supporting the Book of Mormon. It was noted that the writer of the editorial actually understood Ohio, Tennessee, and Central America as locations supporting the Book of Mormon. Each of these locations seemed to contribute to the general term "this continent" used in describing Book of Mormon geography.  Additionally, if Benjamin Winchester wrote the editorial as asserted by Neville, then Winchester would have viewed both the "heartland" and Central America as providing corroborating evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. This post continues the exploration of the Times and Seasons editorials wherein Stephens and Catherwood's book is discussed. In this particular editorial, a lengthy quotation is provided, followed by some editorial commentary.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Benjamin Winchester

I've read the first several chapters in Moroni's America and there are several points raised that I'd like to address; however, I will be returning to most of those points in a separate post. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on the Times and Seasons editorials regarding John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood's book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Neville refers to these editorials multiple times in Moroni's America and asserts that Benjamin Winchester conspired with William Smith to print these editorials in the Times and Seasons with the intent to change Mormon and non-Mormon conceptions of Book of Mormon geography. According to Neville, Winchester succeeded in this endeavor and the Church (including the prophets and apostles) have been off course regarding Book of Mormon geography for the last 170+ years. He argues that the collective Church has falsely believed Mesoamerica to be the location of the events described in the Book of Mormon,1 and refers the reader to his other book The Lost City of Zarahemla for a full discussion of the matter. Matt Roper has thoroughly responded to these issues, including Benjamin Winchester's personal geographic views,2 but I want to explore the editorials here further. I'm uncomfortable simply 'taking his [Neville's] word for it' and would rather explore whether his assertions have feasible plausibility based on the actual editorials in question.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book of Mormon Geography - Entering the Discussion

I've never cared that much about Book of Mormon geography. I do care about Book of Mormon historicity though, and the concern about where the narrative in the Book of Mormon took place has immediate relevance to the concern that it did take place. Nevertheless, geography has always been tangential to my primary interests, and like many others I've been comfortable with the assumption that the narrative in the Book of Mormon described events that took place in Central America. I presume that most members in the Church have made similar assumptions. In recent years these assumptions have been challenged though. The assertion that Central America was the location of BoM activities has been denounced in strong terms by a small group of Latter-day Saints who advocate that the American "heartland" is where the Book of Mormon narrative really took place. I've sat on the sidelines for the past several years while these discussions have progressed, and probably would have happily stayed there, but a friend recently handed me a book written by Jonathan Neville, entitled Moroni's America, and I feel inclined to address some of the content of this book as I read through it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Richard Bennett on Oliver Cowdery's Return

"It is not without consequence that Oliver Cowdery, "the second elder" of the Church (D&C 20:3), fell away and was excommunicated from the Church during the dark and troubling days of Kirtland, Ohio, and Far West, Missouri, in 1838. The details of his disaffection and excommunication are perhaps not as important to this study as are his return and rebaptism. Thanks to the intrepid efforts of Phineas Young, brother to Brigham Young, Oliver was kept conversant with the affairs of the Saints. As a lawyer first in Ohio and then in Wisconsin, Oliver even offered his services to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was incarcerated in Carthage Jail in June 1844. Plagued with tuberculosis and sensing that his health was declining, Oliver returned to the Saints at Kanesville, Iowa, in November 1848. When Brigham Young, then in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, heard of his return, he penned these memorable lines of sincere gratitude and earnest invitation:

Richard Bennett on Joseph Smith's "First Vision" Environment

"A close examination into the nature of the revivals near Palmyra in 1820 does reveal "a strife of words" and "a contest about opinions" (Joseph Smith-History 1:8); however, not all the revivals were of the circus variety, full of zealous sermonizing, converts barking up trees or baying like dogs, and women swooning in trancelike devotion. Most of the revivals took on the personality and character of the dominant minister. And in the spring of 1820, one such prominent Presbyterian divine was the respected Reverend Asahel Nettleton of Connecticut (assisted by the Reverend Halsey A. Wood), whose travels through the areas west of Albany in late 1819 took the form of a quiet religious reformation.

"Preaching in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Ballston, West Galway, Cooperstown, Utica, and rural areas perhaps as far west as Rochester, Nettleton directed his listeners to nearby groves to pray in faith and find hope of salvation. His revivals lasted several weeks and were also characterized by Sabbath sermon meetings in which he taught the awful condition of the fallen and unrepentant soul...."All the meetings were crowded and solemn. There was no tumult, no noise. Everything was still, though every mind seemed filled with the magnitude of the work....So profound was the stillness, that a recent death could have added nothing to it, in many families. Common conversation was rarely engaged in, and every ear was open to hear the gospel....The people seemed never weary of attending....They would flock together during all the inclemencies of the season, and listen, when met, with so deep and profound an attention, that in a room crowded to overflowing, it would almost seem you might hear a pin drop or the beating of a watch. The stillness, at times, seemed to have something like mystery about it; it was sublime, it was awful; you almost seemed to be in eternity....Some of the most signal convictions seem to have been wrought by the Spirit in these circumstances....Our evening meetings [February 1820] were still more thronged, and in the coldest evenings of an unusually severe winter, many assembled who were not able to obtain admittance to our school houses, and have been seen to raise the windows and stand without in devout attention to the word of God."